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Coke, Pepsi make changes to avoid cancer warning

posted 9 Mar 2012, 15:50 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 9 Mar 2012, 15:51 ]

Beverage giants Pepsi and Coke decide to alter the manufacturing process of a caramel color ingredient in their namesake colas to avoid labeling packages with a cancer warning.

NBC - Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo are making changes to the production of an ingredient in their namesake colas to avoid the need to label the packages with a cancer warning.

The changes will not alter the colas' taste, color or formula, according to statements from both companies.

Coke and Pepsi said on Friday (March 9) that they had asked their suppliers of the caramel coloring in their colas to alter their manufacturing process to meet the requirements of a California ballot initiative aiming to limit exposure to toxic chemicals.

The change is meant to reduce the amount of a chemical called 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, which in January was added to the list of chemicals covered by California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65.

High levels of that chemical have been linked to cancer in animals.

Both companies said they started the ingredient intiative in California, and would seek to reduce 4-MI caramel coloring over time.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a U.S. watchdog group, said it found unsafe levels of the chemical in cans of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc's Dr Pepper and Whole Foods Markets Inc's Cola.

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the CSPI, said the decision was an initial good step, but more needs to be done.

"Well it's a step in the right direction and it's good news for Californians. Hopefully Coke and Pepsi will do the same for the rest of the country and the rest of the world where Coke probably sells as much as they do in the United States. But even the amount of 4-methylimidazole that remains in California colas exceeds the amount that the FDA considers acceptable. We've urged the FDA to take action and get this caramel coloring off the market," he said.

CSPI has petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration to ban ammonia-sulfite caramel coloring, which is the type used in many common products including cola, soy sauce, coffee, bread, molasses, gravy and some beers.